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Monday Morning Mailbag: Balance Paying Dividends For Vikings

Posted Dec 3, 2017

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My favorite fact about today's win was that Case Keenum didn't have an incompletion in the second half. He slowed it down and didn't make any mistakes. We've had wins in different fashions. We've won shootouts and close, grind-it-out defensive games. Versatility is extremely important to being successful in the playoffs. I really like this week’s win. And we locked down Julio! SKOL Vikings!
-- Evan Beckford

Having balance in terms of how much you rely on your defense to help you win games and your offense to help you win is a trait a lot of great teams possess, and so far in 2017 the Vikings have demonstrated that type of balance. The Vikings entered Week 13 as the only NFL team to rank in the top in total defense and offense. The Vikings have also demonstrated, as Evan pointed out, the ability to win high-scoring games, like the 38-30 victory in Washington, and low-scoring grinders like Sunday’s win over Atlanta or the win over the Los Angeles Rams a few weeks ago.

What a great game all around! Very few mistakes and, to top it off, special teams turned it around this week! Quigley's coffin corner punt to the Atlanta 2 was very key, as was the missed field goal by Atlanta! These last four weeks are going to be big! Can't wait to see the outcome! Skol!
-- Kyle Alexander
Texas

It was unquestionably a bounce back effort for the Vikings special teams group. Marcus Sherels had a 32-yard kickoff return and a 10-yard punt return, Forbath hit both of his kicks and Quigley did indeed drop a dime inside the Falcons 5 to put Ryan and Co. on a short field; they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. Atlanta averaged four yards per punt return and 22.5 yards per kickoff return, and there were no major gaffes in those phases, either.

The most impressive aspect of this win was how the defense stifled Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. We didn’t have a sack but I’m betting that that’s because Zim emphasized coverage more than pass rush. The other impressive thing about this team is how physical they are. They wore Atlanta down in the 4th quarter.
-- Gary Gross

We saw yet another team significantly alter their offensive strategy, specifically as it relates to the passing game, while going against the Vikings defense. Opposing offenses continue to feature the quick-strike passing game, likely to take away the Vikings pass rush. The good news for opposing offenses is that does reduce the number of sacks the Vikings have; Ryan wasn’t sacked on Sunday. The bad news is it severely limits the ability to register explosive gains. The Falcons came into Sunday’s game averaging 9.3 explosive gains per game, and against the Vikings they had one. This is largely because Atlanta essentially refused to put Ryan on a five-step or seven-step drop to give receivers time to get open downfield. The few times Ryan did try that, he was blasted right as he released the ball and the passes fell incomplete as Ryan tried to pick himself up off the turf. Ryan had a streak of 30 games with a touchdown pass entering Sunday, and now he’ll have to start a brand new streak because he was held without a touchdown pass. It was an epic effort by the Vikings defense on Sunday.

What a season so far! But if you had to be critical and look for improvement in the team, what would it be? I think takeaways.
-- Paul Pecukonis
Seattle, WA

That’s not a bad place to start because for as good as the Vikings defense has played, it’s interesting they rank just 19th in the NFL with 14 takeaways. Another place to fine tune would be a couple of areas on special teams, including the return game.

Great team win against Atlanta! Again the offensive and defensive fronts were able lead us! Awesome game plan, controlled the clock, keeping the defense fresh and the Falcons offense off the field. Carolina is the last of the NFC South teams to be in our way. A clean sweep of the NFC South would be impressive! What challenges do you see the Panthers presenting? How much is the third road game in a row against good teams going to attribute to the Viking game plan and success?
-- Larry Lujan

I don’t know what kind of impact a third consecutive road game will have on this contest because the Vikings have proven time and again to be mentally and physically tough, plus they had 10 days between their last two road games. As far as challenges the Panthers present, you have to first look at their defense, which ranks No. 2 in yards per game allowed and No. 8 in points per game allowed; also consider the fact they have the added advantage of playing at home. Also, take a look at the addition of running back Christian McCaffrey, who is every bit as dangerous as a receiver as he is a running back. The dynamic rookie already has 64 receptions and four receiving touchdowns to go along with his 82 carries and two rushing touchdowns. The Vikings have had their way with Cam Newton since Mike Zimmer arrived in 2014, but he is such a gifted and talented player that you can’t take this matchup for granted. He has the ability to jump up and take over a game, so he must be neutralized.

If both the Vikings and Eagles play out the season with the same record, who would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?
-- Mike MacEvitt
Mililani, Hawaii

The short answer is: we don’t know yet and we won’t know until after Week 17’s game have been played. But I know you want the long answer, so here it is. Since the Vikings and Eagles don’t play one another, it would go to Step 2 of the tie breaker protocol between two teams not from the same division, which is conference record. Both the Vikings and Eagles are 8-1 in the NFC with three game to go, so we can’t declare or even project a winner at this point. If the teams have the same conference record, Step 3 comes into play and it comes down to record against common opponents; the Vikings and Eagles common opponents are the Bears, Panthers, Rams, Redskins. The Vikings are 3-0 against common opponents and the Eagles are 4-0, but the Vikings have yet to play the Panthers and the Eagles have yet to play the Rams, so we can’t calculate this tie breaker yet, either. Step 4 is strength of victory, which is calculating the win-loss-tied percentage of all the opponents the Vikings and Eagles have defeated and giving the nod to the team with the highest opponents’ winning percentage.